This question is addressed in a new book, Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company. It was written by two academics, John Kimberly of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Hamid Bouchikhi, a professor at International Business School in Eurpoe (ESSEC).
An interview with author John Kimberly is available at Knowledge@Wharton. But if you don’t have time to go there, here’s my interpretation of his answer to the question: is there a difference between company identity and corporate brand.
The answer: it depends.
Sorry to be wishy-washy, but it really does depend. It has to do with corporate culture, heritage, management, vision, mission, philosophy, structure and drivers. (That’s my opinion, not necessarily John Kimberly’s.)
In France, since all McDonald employees, execs on down, are French, and since they only buy French ingredients, is the image/identity French, American or global?
A Chinese company called TCL is the largest TV maker in the world, yet it only sells through marketers worldwide by the brands of the marketers – RCA is one of them. So does TCL have an identity? It surely does foe TV marketers, it sure doesn’t for TV consumers.
Last example: Johnson & Johnson has a strong corporate identity which it has acquired through its products while their products have acquired an identity from the company. Yet Johnson & Johnson also have product lines distinct from the corporate identity, mostly acquisitions they have let alone as far as brand association, management and operations.
Two things the interview left me thinking were: 1) identity can be elusive but is terribly important to structure in any company, and 2) identity is a strategic issue that should be on the agendas of executive board meetings.